Wednesday, August 15, 2012

An Agent's Inbox #11

Dear Agent:

When her father does things like slam her head into the fridge, sixteen-year-old Emma Sullivan copes the only way she knows how: she steals her mom’s pain meds and piles on extra makeup. What really hurts is that her mom would rather pretend she’s a total klutz than admit life is less than perfect. Emma has no one in her corner until she meets her late grandfather’s best friend, Ed Rossi. Certain that her grandfather would’ve done anything to stop the abuse if he’d known, Ed helps Emma run away and promises to keep her out of her father’s hands.

Ed’s plan goes to h*** when Emma finds a magic key that belonged to her grandmother and ends up stranded in another world. Things only get worse when she meets some of the locals--people who think having a key that’ll always take them home is worth killing for. Won’t even be all that hard for them, since they can all shift into animals that could literally tear her apart. Except Robin, who’s been bullied ever since everyone realized he’s just a robin (hence the nickname). Robin sees Emma as his ticket out and plans their escape. Given the mob of shifters out for her blood, joining forces with Robin is her only real option. They begin searching for a new key that leads back to Emma’s home, all the while trying to find Robin his fresh start.

Emma knows going home, where magic is nothing but fiction and people don’t even know about the keys, is the logical choice. Ed promised her the safe and normal life she’d always dreamed of. But as she moves from world to world, she can’t decide what she really wants. Sure, magic can be super dangerous. Any member of the fairy royal family could probably kill her with a thought. Or there’s the Shakespeare-obsessed firebird, who has a tendency to give off showers of sparks when he gets frustrated. But she’s just as fascinated as she is afraid. And as Robin shifts from reluctantly accepted partner to the most important person in her life, she has to decide just how safe she really needs to be.

A work of young adult fantasy, DIAMOND TEARS is complete at 65,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.



When my left temple slammed into the refrigerator door, I knew I’d have to get up extra early the next morning. It would take forever to do my makeup and hair so no one would see the damage. My vision blurred to a whitish haze for a couple of seconds, and I took that opportunity to go limp, dropping to the floor. Not because I needed to. No, I could take much more than that without going down. But because he lost interest when he thought I was out for the count.

“Emma?” my father muttered, nudging my side with the toe of his three hundred dollar shoe. I didn’t react in any way. He cursed under his breath, and I heard the sounds of his footsteps through the floorboards when he walked away. “Grace!” he shouted as he moved toward the back of the house. “Emma fell again and hit her head! She’s in the kitchen!”

I could hear the murmur of my mother’s voice, but couldn’t distinguish any words. I knew the gist of her reply anyway. Oh, poor, clumsy Emma, always hurting herself. Of course I’ll go help her. Why don't you relax and have another glass of wine, dear? Even if that wasn’t what she said, it was close enough.

Thanks mom.

The door to my father’s office slammed, followed by my mother’s hurried steps. I waited long enough to make sure he didn’t change his mind and come back, and then picked myself up off the floor.


G.B. Skye said...

Wow, that opening 250... Dang... took my breath away. Great writing. Painful to read, and very well done.

Arianna said...

Even though it's really well written, I feel like there will be way too much going on in your story. After reading your query, I felt slightly exhausted and like this will be a very jam-packed novel. I mean, I went from feeling bad about the abuse to confused about magic keys and then all of sudden people can shapeshift? It just feels like so much and it's hard for me to take it all in.

But that could just be me. The first 250 words were awesome though. Good luck in the contest!!

Jennifer Malone said...

I'm a bit overwhelmed with all that this query has going on- the abuse description really sucked me in but then the part about the other world and the shape shifters and the fairy royal family and firebird got a little much for me. I think it might just be a matter of taking some of the detail out. Of course, I am not a huge reader of fantasy, so take these comments with a grain of salt, but I think if an agent got all of this information up front, they might be concerned that your MS was also a jumble of so many things going on in 65,000 words (which isn't hugely long for world-building). However, the writing sample was really good. I remember seeing this first line on Miss Snark's First Line Contest and I know you took some heat for it, but I have to say that seeing it with the following line, it really makes perfect sense!

Kristy Shen said...

I agree with Adrianna and Jennifer that you query might be too jam-packed. But your 250 is really awesome! Nicely done!

Deserae McGlothen said...

The feelings expressed by the others are going to be mirrored here. It sounds like there's a lot going on in the query and, therefore, a lot's going to be happening in the book. 65,000 words, though, can achieve all of this. I just think that your query needs to tighten and focus on this main thing: Emma, a kid who's already planning to run from her miserable life, gets trapped in another world thanks to a magical key. But getting home is going to be a problem because of the shifters who are after her key and the fact that staying lost might mean a better life.

It's not perfect but essentially, if her life at home is going to be left behind and/or isn't the main crux of the story, I'd rather you use the space for more of the actual plot. Even though your first paragraph for this query is amazeballs, it's nearly a hundred words of backstory. You don't want to waste that space because that leads me to think we're going to be reading THAT story, the contemporary YA.

The first page was good and showed a lot of Emma's strength and character. I am not entirely sold on the surrounding characters, though, but it IS just a first page so I'd read more to get a feel for that.

Good luck!

Nazarea Andrews said...

I'm gonna start with your 250--which I really like. I think it's sad but also gives us a really good view of what's going on in Emma's house and life.

Now, back to the query--I'm with the others. This query has so much going on I don't know where to focus. Can you lose some of smaller plots for the query and focus on the big story? Just so that we don't get so worn-out with your query...

Robin said...

The query overwhelmed me. I don't need a synopsis, just a hook, get me wanting more, but not asking so many questions that I get confused or have to slow down and read a section again.

I remember the 1st 250 from WriteOnCon:) and am excited about the little fixes. It reads so much clearer now.

What a family dynamic. I want to read more of Emma.

Good luck!

The Agent said...

This query is a great example of one of the recurring issues I have with portal fantasy as a subgenre. I think the query itself is well-written, but it's hampered by the constraints of the story.

In particular, the first paragraph--which is fabulous--introduces us to what I expect to be a very strong and emotional contemporary. I really want to read that book. But then, in the second paragraph, the story takes a completely unexpected turn, as Emma goes to another world--and she never goes back.

The hardest thing in portal fantasy is making sure there's a connection between the "real" world and the fantasy world. The character's experiences in the real world have to clearly affect how they react to the fantasy world; what happens in the fantasy world should have some lasting effect on the real world. Otherwise, it feels too disjoint, as though there are two separate stories. In the case of this query, I'm not seeing the connections between real and fantasy worlds that make a portal fantasy really compelling.

Honestly, in my inbox, I usually stop reading when a query takes a shocking turn like this, because portal fantasy is so hard to do well.

I do think the first page is good, though. There's instant conflict and voice. (The same voice is clear in the query.) I'm just not sure how that will play out in the story you've decided to tell.

Ashley Turcotte said...

Thank you so much to everyone for all of your feedback! And thank you, Krista, for hosting the contest.

This has been incredibly helpful. Especially the Agent's point about it seeming like two separate stories. I need to figure out a way to clearly show just how important Emma's home life is to several of the major decisions she has to make in the fantasy world. If she'd been a happy, normal teenager, this would be a very different book, and I didn't realize that I'm not portraying that. Again, thank you, thank you, thank you!

J. Kaitlin Adams said...

i really, really enjoyed the first 250 pages. I read it fast because it was so good and intense!

I do have a hard time imagining the magic part of the story. The query seemed to have a lot going on. It's probably hard to talk about all of the necessary things when so many things about this story seem pertinent.

All in all, though, I would definitely read on! Good luck and great job!